Pozzi Chimney Sweep Blog

Faulty Chimney Liners and Carbon Monoxide

Chimney Liner Damage and Carbon Monoxide - Aurora IL - Pozzi Chimney SweepWith weather experts forecasting an upcoming winter just as brutal as last year’s, everyone has started thinking about the best ways to stay warm. Some homeowners turn to their fireplaces and wood stoves as the primary heat source for the home, and even more have started using the fireplace as an added heat source to supplement the primary source. As with any type of heating, but especially those involving combustion, safety is of the essence. Part of keeping the fireplace and chimney safe is having an annual inspection done. This helps identify problems like faulty liners, which can create devastating problems.

The chimney liner covers the inside of the chimney, separating the hot gases from the chimney and home. Generally made of clay or steel, it has several jobs, including protecting combustible materials in the house from the heat of the fire, protecting the chimney structure from damage caused by the acidic smoke, and protecting the home’s inhabitants by directing toxic fumes out of the living space. When the chimney liner fails at the last job, the consequences are fast and devastating.

Clay flue liners can crack and break after too much exposure to extreme heat. Steel liners can rust after exposure to water leaking in the chimney. Either way, the chimney liner can no longer effectively do its job. Not all of the smoke and other gases escape up the chimney. Some enters the slips through the cracks and rust holes in the flue liner, which leaves the house susceptible to the gases as well. This means everyone in the home becomes a potential victim of carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide is a small molecule formed in high concentrations as a product of combustion. Essentially, every time something burns, carbon monoxide results as a product. Burning occurs in many appliances and machines, meaning carbon monoxide is produced in many instances, including in car exhaust, charcoal grills, gas ranges, and propane lanterns. This is why health experts discourage starting the car engine in a closed garage or barbecuing anywhere indoors. Depending on the size of the fire and the room, an enclosed space may take only minutes to fill with carbon monoxide, and you may never know. The gas has no smell, taste or color, making it impossible to detect without the aid of a specialized detector.

Once the concentration of carbon monoxide hits a certain point, the signs of poisoning can become evident very quickly. Inhaling carbon monoxide prevents oxygen from traveling around the body, which results in asphyxiation. Early signs of poisoning include dizziness, shortness of breath and nausea, but it can quickly turn into unconsciousness, organ failure and death if the victim does not move to clean, outdoor air.

When burning fires beneath faulty chimney liners, you risk your family’s safety with numerous dangers, not the least of which being carbon monoxide poisoning. To protect everyone from these dangers, have an inspection done to determine the condition of the chimney liner. If it is cracked, filled with holes, or missing completely, do not burn any more fires before having a chimney specialist address the problem. If you live in the area of Aurora, Illinois, contact Pozzi Chimney Sweep for a professional consultation.

Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

No matter the time of year, fires and carbon monoxide poisoning pose serious health threats in homes across the nation. However, the upcoming winter season only increases the risk because homeowners start running furnaces, boilers, fireplaces and stoves. People rely on these forms of heat every day to stay warm, but they can also stay safe by installing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors throughout the house.

Smoke & CO Detectors - Aurora IL - Pozzi ChimneyIf an unintentional fire starts somewhere in the house, inhabitants likely have a few precious minutes at most to escape the burning building. To further improve the chances of escape, the home should be equipped with working smoke detectors in every bedroom, outside the sleeping area, and on each level of the house. Test each smoke detector every month and replace them completely every 10 years. The National Fire Protection Association has found that having working smoke alarms in the house doubles your chances of survival in a reported house fire.

Carbon monoxide may be even more sinister than a house fire because, at least with a fire, you can tell there is an emergency. Carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless and tasteless, leaving your body incapable of recognizing its presence prior to signs of being poisoned. For this reason, carbon monoxide detectors must be spread throughout the home and kept updated.

Carbon monoxide gas results from any type of burning. Thus, if the chimney does not vent properly, your wood-burning fireplace could potentially fill the house with carbon monoxide. If your gas-powered furnace has a hole in the fire chamber, you may be breathing carbon monoxide. Even an act as innocuous as a propane lantern on the kitchen table during a power outage could have disastrous consequences.

The gas acts in a similar way to oxygen when inhaled, except that it blocks oxygen from traveling around the body. Therefore, the first signs of poisoning include lightheadedness, nausea and dizziness as the body begins to experience the lack of oxygen. Without fresh air to breathe within a few minutes, consciousness may be lost, followed by organ failure and death. In fact, with a high enough concentration of carbon monoxide in the air, you can lose consciousness in one minute.

The dangers of fire and carbon monoxide are real and very powerful. In addition to maintaining functional smoke and carbon monoxide detectors throughout the house, also educate your family about fire and carbon monoxide safety, especially the children. Devise a safety plan of what to do and where to go in case the alarms sound. These simple practices can save lives. If you have any questions about smoke or carbon monoxide detectors, contact your local fire department or Pozzi Chimney Sweep of Aurora, Illinois.

Air Quality Issues

Sure, you might enjoy the smell of a wood fire on a crisp fall evening—but that’s not a smell you should be experiencing inside your home from your fireplace. In fact, smelling smoke means not only that your chimney isn’t doing its job, but also that the air inside your home is being polluted and is hazardous to your health. We all spend a lot of time in our homes, and want to do what we can to reduce the amount of pollutants in the air. Let’s take a look at how we can eliminate your chimney from contributing to bad air.

If draft isn't happening properly, some air that should go up the chimney is coming into your home. This can cause breathing difficulties.

If draft isn’t happening properly, some air that should go up the chimney is coming into your home. This can cause breathing difficulties.

Smoke pollution, also called spillage, is when air gets pulled down through the chimney, instead of allowing the smoke to exit up. This pushes the smoke into the home. Even in small amounts, this can be dangerous. Elderly or children are especially susceptible to this kind of pollution—it can cause respiratory and cardiovascular issues, lung cancer, and can damage lung tissue.

There are a number of things that can cause spillage. An average fire consumes all the air that can fit into a 1200 square-foot space three times within 24 hours of operation. If your home isn’t properly ventilated, that fire is going to get the air from somewhere. There can also be issues with your flue size or the position of the fire grate. A smoke guards or exhaust fan is often a practical and effective solution to this problem.

Mold spores are another, more invisible foe, and your chimneys can often be the culprit. If there is moisture trapped inside the chimney it’s the perfect place for mold to grow—dark, damp and warm. It’s also responsible for a number of health problems, like sinus and respiratory problems, coughing, headaches, and eye and throat irritation. Having a chimney cap installed and waterproofing your chimney will rid it of moisture and help keep your air cleaner.

As you can see, keeping up with the regular maintenance of your chimney is a vital part of being a homeowner. Be sure to schedule an annual inspection and cleaning, so your chimney sweep can keep you one step ahead.